Selecting the right PR agency

Selecting an appropriate public relations (PR) agency to support your marketing efforts can be tricky and often time consuming. I suspect you are already extremely busy, which is perhaps why you are looking for external support in the first place, so you will be keen to not only find the right company, but also ensure the process is as efficient as possible.

With the right search phrase, Google will provide you with a range of potential candidates, but you will need to determine which of these is the right agency for your company. You will need to work out whether they are going to be able to fully understand your specific range of products and/or services. You will also need establish that they have the relevant experience of promoting similar technologies into the industries you support. You will also need decide if they can get the right messages across and achieve the results you are looking for.

Do I need an agency?

I don’t want to dissuade you using the services of an agency such as my own, but before starting a selection process, I do recommend that you ask yourself whether you really need a PR agency at all. What is it exactly that you would like an agency such as HHC Lewis to do that your marketing team are not already doing themselves? Marketing managers are often performing many or even all the activities expected of a PR agency. If that is the case, why are you looking for an external agency? What is it that an agency can add to your marketing mix?

Understanding what you are trying to achieve, the kind of things you’d like the agency to do to obtain those results and being able to describe the day-to-day activities you would like to outsource are the first steps. The answers to these questions will also form the basis of a brief that an agency can provide you with a proposal.

How a PR agency can help

Having risked pushing you away, let me try to entice you back by highlighting some of the reasons to work with an agency. Probably the most important of these is to help provide you with writing support. Good technical writers, or indeed writers who are comfortable and competent to write about technical subjects such as engineering and industrial technology, can be hard to find. Experts, especially engineers who write well can be few and far between. For those that do, developing articles will often be low on their list of priorities, which doesn’t help you achieve your aims.

Members of your marketing team may have the time and skillset, but if not, this is where a PR agency can help. Any PR agency worth its salt will be able to provide professional writing support. Specialist agencies will have the ability to write about complex, niche and highly technical subjects. Crucially, whether you are aiming material at the trade press, websites or for your own company marketing material, these writers will be able to advise on the right content and style.

Another area that a PR agency can provide real value is in identifying what is newsworthy. By that, I mean material that editors are really looking for. Marketing departments are often put under pressure by product managers or CEOs to announce things that simply won’t be published by a quality trade journal. A decent agency will have the experience and conviction to say “no” when appropriate, which will help prevent wasted time and budget. On the flip side, we can also spot potential for an article, which you may have overlooked.

Another reason for working with a PR agency will be the editorial contacts they can provide.

Specialist agencies will not only be able to understand your technology, they will also have good relationships with editors covering the technology and industries you are targeting. Editors that need a comment or material for a feature will often go directly to a trusted agency for help, placing their clients in an advantageous position.

A PR agency will also be able to provide support in terms of measurement of PR performance. Understanding the coverage and reach obtained from the promotional activities is important. Most PR agencies will monitor the media they use, and it is in their interest to identify coverage resulting from their work. Providing print and digital clippings and an advertising value equivalent of these is normal practice.

Selecting the right agency for you

Having managed to get this blog in front of you, I’d be silly not to take this opportunity to say that “HHC Lewis is the right agency for you”, but it would be wise to speak with a few companies before making a final selection. Usually you can get a reasonable idea of competency from a website, but a phone conversation or initial face-to-face meeting will help you find out if you can work with this company. Keep in mind that if an agency knows your technology and industries very well, they might just have a conflict of interest. Don’t be afraid to ask about this at an early stage as it will save a lot of wasted time.

Having gained some insight into the agency and people that work there, this is the point at which to provide that brief I mentioned earlier outlining what it is you are trying to achieve and the kind of work required. From this, the agency will be able to provide you with some ideas, a general plan and potential costs.

If you are anything like me, you will probably have already made you mind up by this point, but if you are still struggling to find the right agency you might want to seek a referral from a trade journal. Keep in mind that the sales contact will probably recommend a company that places advertising with them, but an editor will probably offer a less biased opinion.

Best of luck.

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